Ex-health care CEO convicted in fraud case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal jury on Friday convicted the former CEO of a failed health-care financing company in a $1.9 billion fraud case that prosecutors likened to the Enron or WorldCom scandals.

Lance Poulsen, 65, founder of National Century Financial Enterprises, was accused of fabricating data, moving money between accounts to hide shortfalls and misleading investors who funded his business model.

He had been on trial for the past month on charges of securities fraud and money laundering. He was convicted on all 20 counts.

His attorneys said they will file an appeal. Poulsen faces up to 135 years in prison, although his actual sentence will likely be shorter under federal-sentencing guidelines. No sentencing date was set.

In closing arguments Thursday, U.S. trial attorney Leo Wise called the case one of the largest frauds ever investigated by the FBI.

Poulsen, who was convicted in March and sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to bribe a witness, characterized himself as a rags-to-riches success story whose legitimate business was destroyed by the government.

Poulsen remains disappointed that U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley allowed jurors to hear evidence of Poulsen’s bribery conviction, defense attorney Pete Anderson said Friday.

Anderson said that information should have been excluded under rules of evidence. It’s always a risk when a jury learns of a previous conviction, he said.

Prosecutors declined to comment.

Poulsen had testified he did nothing illegal and was guilty at most of overseeing a company that might have grown too fast.

But the government’s key witness, former company executive Sherry Gibson, testified that she falsified numbers in investors’ reports on Poulsen’s orders. Gibson pleaded guilty in 2003 to conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud.

The government said Poulsen kept two sets of books and signed off on falsified reports.

Poulsen founded National Century Financial Enterprises in Dublin, Ohio, in the early 1990s.

At its height, the company employed more than 300 people, most of them in the Columbus area. Executives made millions, with Poulsen alone earning more than $9.1 million between 1996 and 2002, according to the government. He also owned a yacht, a private corporate jet and a Florida mansion.

National Century offered financing to small hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers by purchasing their accounts receivable, usually for 80 or 90 cents on the dollar, so they wouldn’t have to wait for insurance payments. National Century then collected the full amount of the payments.

The company raised the money to fund its business by selling bonds to investors. It declared bankruptcy in 2002 after the FBI raided its offices.

At least nine former National Century executives have been convicted of corporate fraud related to the case.